For Immediate Release, June 28, 2010
More than 150,000 Call on BP and Federal Officials to Stop Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive
SAN FRANCISCO— More than 150,000 people today called on BP to stop burning alive endangered sea turtles in the chaotic clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. They also called on the federal government to put an immediate end to this gruesome practice. CREDO Action and the Center for Biological Diversity will deliver petitions with more than 150,000 signatures to those overseeing the cleanup and urge BP to stop blocking efforts to rescue sea turtles from such a horrific death.
“The worst environmental disaster in U.S. history gets grimmer and grimmer,” said Center Oceans Program Director Miyoko Sakashita. “Hundreds of species in the Gulf are being killed or harmed by the toxic oil, but the plight of the Kemp’s ridley is particularly heartbreaking since it had been poised to become an endangered species success story. Now, once again, the species is moving toward extinction.”
A boat captain who had been involved in efforts to rescue the sea turtles reported that BP blocked his crews from the areas set afire where he believed the animals were trapped, effectively shutting down the rescue operation and condemning the ancient creatures to being burned alive.
BP is using “controlled burns” in an attempt to contain the spill. Boats create a corral of oil by dragging together fire-resistant booms and then lighting the enclosed "burn box" on fire. If turtles are not removed from the area before the fire is lit, they are burned alive. The same Sargassum seaweed mats that are collecting oil also draw sea turtles, which use them for food and shelter. Unfortunately, that leaves turtles, particularly young ones, vulnerable to being oiled and burned.
Anyone responsible for killing the endangered turtles is liable for criminal penalties that could include prison and civil fines of up to $25,000 per violation. “As a result, BP perversely has a financial incentive to allow the endangered turtles to burn rather than allow them to be rescued from the burn boxes before the containment fires are lit,” says Becky Bond, political director of CREDO Action. “Blocking the rescue of these ancient creatures is tragically indicative of the clean-up response as whole.”
As of today, at least 429 sea turtles have been found dead in the Gulf, and many more have likely been hurt or killed but not found. The Kemp’s ridley had been driven toward extinction by egg poaching and fisheries bycatch, particularly in trawls and gill nets. While some egg poaching still exists, it has been significantly reduced.
In addition to the Kemp’s ridley, four other endangered sea turtles are found in the Gulf of Mexico: green, loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles. They rely on areas throughout the Gulf of Mexico for nesting, reproduction, feeding and migration.
Of the five species of sea turtles present in the Gulf, Kemp’s ridleys rely most extensively on this area. They nest on the beaches, feed in shallow waters and migrate throughout the Gulf.
Other species in the Gulf include the extremely threatened Atlantic bluefin tuna, which gather in the area to breed this time of year, and sperm whales, which inhabit deepwater areas in the northern Gulf. Seabirds, sharks, whales and other marine mammals are also at risk from the oil, while fisheries and other businesses will suffer ill effects for years to come.
Click here for a photo of the Kemp’s ridley.